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Allegedly ‘Out of Control’ Judge Faces Official Ethics Charges

Early in July, we wrote about a family court judge who found himself in hot water after a video of him yelling at a pastor who was going through a divorce went viral.

Now, the judge has been hit with expedited ethics charges — not over his hot-tempered behavior, though, but for allegedly ignoring orders from higher-ups on the state judicial food chain. And, as you might expect, the judge is not exactly Zen about facing the charges…

Here’s what the Charleston Gazette has to say about Judge William Watkins:

A Putnam County Family Court judge says he is “infuriated” by ethics charges filed against him in the West Virginia Supreme Court, and said he has asked the court for help with an overwhelming caseload to no avail.

Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury filed an expedited ethics complaint against Judge William Watkins in late July after discovering Watkins had allegedly failed repeatedly to rule on cases even after having been ordered to do so by Putnam circuit court judges. The formal charges, served Friday, also claim Watkins failed to enter domestic violence orders into the state’s tracking system.

Watkins, the only Family Court judge in Putnam County, said Saturday at times he is forced to hold up to 40 hearings a day and has repeatedly asked for help from the Supreme Court to handle his “overwhelming” caseload.

“This is really about caseloads,” Watkins said. “To say that I’ve been unethical is just infuriating.”

Man, I’m sorry you feel overwhelmed by your job. I hate to break it to you, Your Honor, but SO DOES EVERYONE. Except for all those unemployed attorneys roaming the countryside, who would probably be willing to cut off a toe for your job.

(Also, not to split hairs, but saying you are “infuriated” probably isn’t a great choice, seeing as the internet is well aware of what your anger can look like. It ain’t pretty, and it led to being called “out of control” in the press. It’s probably not going to help you here.)

In fairness to Judge Watkins, he claims that he’s doing the work of one and a half judge. He told the newspaper that he has the highest divorce caseload in the state. And regarding his videotaped tirade, it sounds like the controversy did make some impact on him:

“I’m still embarrassed about my tirade against Pastor Hage,” Watkins said. “I come across like a lunatic.”

Fair enough — he is overworked, so maybe things take a little longer to get done. But it allegedly took two years to deal with some of the cases at issue in the ethics charges. That’s more than a little a delay.

Unfortunately, overworked or not, no matter who you are, you have to get your job done in a timely manner, without making too many people angry — at least if you want to keep it. Is it too little, too late for Judge Watkins? Well, if worst comes to worst, he would not be the only state judge to wind up on the breadline this year.

Putnam County family court judge charged [Charleston Gazette]
Putnam judge responds, denies ethics claims [Charleston Gazette]

Earlier: Judge of the Day: Shut Up When I’m Talking to You!

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